Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

ArcelorMittal to restart Blast Furnace D at Burns Harbor plant

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ArcelorMittal’s decision to idle blast furnaces 5 and 6 at its Indiana Harbor facility is good news for the steelworkers at its Burns Harbor facility, where Blast Furnace D—idled since September 2008—is going back on line.

“ArcelorMittal will be taking Indiana Harbor blast furnaces 5 and 6 off line and will serve market demand with lower cost capacity available by restarting ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor D furnace,” a company spokesperson e-mailed the Chesterton Tribune today. “This configuration will enhance our production flexibility, resulting in more consistent customer satisfaction and aligns with our continuous improvement objectives.”

“We are not anticipating layoffs at this time and are exploring all options to maintain employment levels,” the spokesperson added.

Paul Gipson, president of United Steelworkers Local 6787 at Burns Harbor, told the Tribune that he expects Blast Furnace D to be up and running within the next 120 days, with a tentative startup date on Aug. 5.

Blast furnaces D and C—the latter of which has continued in operation—each have a 7,000-ton capacity, Gipson said. “That should make us capable of producing 56 heats total. We’ll be capable of producing 5 million tons but that depends on the market. And we’re seeing some softening in the market right now, due to the price of scrap being so high. It’s around $400 per ton now.”

Meanwhile, Gipson noted that the layoff minimization plan inked in November 2008 and providing for the voluntary layoff of 290 steelworkers—negotiated after ArcelorMittal announced the potential layoff of up to 2,444 members—was rescinded by a 2-1 margin in a recent ratification vote by the membership. “We’re back to where we were 16 months ago,” he said.

Almost back. “The company won’t be bringing back the voluntary layoffs all at once,” Gipson said. “They’ll be posting bids on an as needed basis. When there are vacancies, they’ll post. And members who went on voluntary layoff must be active in the plant and qualify in order to bid.”

Gipson did float the “possibility” that, “between now and the end of the year, if the market improves, there could be some hiring.”

In any case, “there’s going to be some turnover with future retirements.”

As part of that ratification vote, Gipson noted, ArcelorMittal gave Local 6787 some guarantees. “The company will be making some huge investments in the plant in the future,” he said. “Over the next decade that will make Burns Harbor a very competitive steel facility. Very competitive.”

All the more important, Gipson said, given the fact that a new integrated electric-arc facility should be coming on line in Alabama in the next month, built by ThyssenKrupp AG of Germany. “It’ll mostly be stainless there but also some high-carbon flat roll that we’ll be in direct competition with.”

Gipson added that the company’s move to idle the two blast furnaces at Indiana Harbor was an economic one. “We have no control over which furnaces they operate. They made the most economically feasible decision and the one that made the most sense. The furnaces there are smaller and some need a lot of work.”

“It’s good news for the area, for the county,” Gipson said.

Posted 5/21/2010




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